Social distancing in force at Heathrow Airport - all arrivals will now need to self-isolate.
The United Kingdom is to close all travel corridors from 4am on Monday January 18.
All arrivals must have proof of a negative Covid test and will have to quarantine for up to ten days. For those travelling to England, there will be an option to take a private (non-National Health Service) test after five days to leave quarantine early if a second negative result is returned. However, the test to release scheme does not apply to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Travellers from the Falklands, St Helena and Ascension Islands are exempt.
The new regulations will apply to the whole of the UK, not just England, following talks between the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the devolved administrations today.
The rules have been introduced following the discovery of two new Covid mutations in Brazil and South Africa and will remain in place until at least February 15.
Earlier this week, the UK government banned all flights from southern African countries including Mauritius and the Maldives, all of South America, Cape Verde and Portugal including Madeira and the Azores.
Travel corridors were introduced by the government during the summer to allow travellers from areas with low Covid numbers to arrive in the UK quarantine-free. Both Hong Kong and Singapore were included on the safe corridor list.
However, at a Downing Street press conference today, Johnson said it was “vital” these new measures should be taken, despite more than three million Brits having now been vaccinated.
“It’s precisely because we have the hope of that vaccine and the risk of new strains coming from overseas that we must take additional steps now to stop those strains from entering the country,” he said.
He was backed by the UK airline industry which said it recognised the seriousness of the current health emergency.
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all under restrictive measures and leisure travel is currently forbidden.
According to the UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, the new Covid variants may be resistant to vaccines but it would be “really quite easy” to adjust the vaccines in order to tackle new mutations.
"It's really a critical time now, because this is exactly the time at which we might expect variants to begin to appear because the level of immunity to the virus across the world is now increasing through natural infection and through vaccination," said Imperial College's professor Wendy Barclay, who is also head of the G2P-UK National Virology Consortium